iPhone 5 vs. Nexus 4: Which phone should you get?

Apple has released the taller, thinner, faster, lighter, brighter iPhone 5 and now Google has struck back with the LG Nexus 4. So what's a gadget geek to do? Apple owns the patent (we think maybe literally...) on elegant, futuristic hardware, consumer-friendly software, and the top content service in the world. Google and LG have brought almost every spec you can imagine (and a few you couldn't!), have the most powerful, customizable software, and the best internet services on the planet. How can you possibly decide between them?

Let's take a look...!

Google/LG Nexus 4

Google/LG Nexus 4

LG starts the Nexus 4 off with a massive 4.7-inch IPS display at 768x1280. That's essentially 720p with its belt let out. The sides are soft-touch, and the back is fully decked out in something called Crystal Reflective Process, which makes it look like you're holding a star field in your hand. There's an 8 megapixel, 1080p camera on back that shames the rather poor shooter on Samsung's last-generation Galaxy Nexus, and a 1.3 megapixel, 1080p camera on the front. A monstrous Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor powers the whole thing, but while it has all the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC radios you'd expect, so far there's absolutely no LTE version in sight.

Android 4.2 shares the same Jelly Bean code name as it's predecessor, but comes with a few great new features like Photosphere which wraps panoramas around you. There's also be lock screen widgets, an improved Gmail app, fast access to radio toggles, and since it's a Nexus, easy access to developer settings. That goes along with all the other marquee Jelly Bean features like the Google Now voice assistant and actionable notifications. Pretty much everything that makes Android so powerful, flexible, and customizable.

In the Nexus 4 review Phil Nickinson of Android Central summed it up like this:

The Nexus 4, LG's first phone in Google's premier line, easily is the best "stock" Android phone thus far, and it's the best in the Nexus line since HTC's Nexus One. The hardware is more top-of-the-line than we're used to in the Nexus platform. The design improves on what LG's done with its own Optimus G. And the software improvements in Android 4.2 make the platform that much more impressive. The phone's not without compromise, but it's also an easy phone to recommend, especially for the price.

The Nexus 4 comes in 8 and 16GB versions. If you buy it direct from Google, you can get it unlocked for $299 or $349. If Google doesn't sell (read: subsidize) it in your area, however, you're looking a paying a bunch more.

Apple iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 has a newly re-designed unibody aluminum chassis to allow for a bigger 4-inch screen in a phone that's 12% smaller by volume. It's taller but not wider, thinner and also lighter. That 4-inch screen also uses in-cell technology to combine the touch sensor right into the LCD. At 1136x640 and 326ppi, it's still backlit LED, and still IPS, and technically the best, most advanced panel on the planet for now. Apple also rolled their own, manually-set Apple A6 processor this time, based on ARM v7s, for amazing performance and excellent power management. There's still no NFC, but there is CDMA, HSPA, and international LTE.

iOS 6 comes loaded on the iPhone 5, and includes a new, controversial Maps app, some great extensions to Siri, deep Facebook integration, Passbook, and enhancements to FaceTime, Mail, Safari, Photo Stream, Panorama, and Accessibility. And because Apple makes both the hardware and the software, there's no integration, no added interface layers, and a seamless experience overall.

iTunes has the biggest international content footprint, so if you're into buying your music, TV, and movies, there's a better chance Apple will take your money than anyone else. They also have the free iCloud service for backup, restore, and sync, as well as Apple Retail Stores with Genius Bars which, if you ever break your phone, you'll absolutely consider a killer service.

In the iPhone 5 review, I summed it up as follows:

Taller, thinner, faster, lighter, brighter; the iPhone 5 represents nothing more nor less than the latest, relentless iteration on the Platonic ideal Apple has been striving towards for almost a decade. Redesigned in every way but shape, compromised but true to its purpose, the iPhone 5 is once again the best iPhone Apple has ever made, and one of the best phones ever made. Period.

The iPhone 5 comes in 16, 32, and 64GB versions. The price on-contract is $199, $299, and $399, unlocked and off-contract is $650, $750, and $850.

Apple iPhone 5 vs. Google/LG Nexus 4: The bottom line

(opens in new tab)

The story of iPhone and Android is one of those classics that just seems to keep getting remade. It's one of precision vs. power, elegance vs. enormity, usability vs. customizability, and Apple's ecosystem vs. Google's ecosystem.

The Nexus 4, if you have a Google Play Store in your country and can buy it directly, is the best bang for the buck in high-end smartphones these days. (Although you'll still end up paying for your carrier plan, basically making any device savings irrelevant.) However, it won't come with more than 16GB of storage, and it won't come with LTE. (And don't let them fool you, I get 50Mbps down at the local coffee shop, HSPA+ is lucky to get half that.) As of right now, however, the Nexus 4 is pretty much the ultimate Android developer/tweaker phone.

The iPhone 5 is more expensive, but it's also built, glitter aside, like nothing else on the planet. You can get it with up to 64GB of storage and with LTE in most places that have LTE. And for most people, most of the time, iOS and everything that comes with it remains the best choice. The iPhone 5 is still king of the mainstream.

The old cliche remains true. If you want something that works the way you want it, get the Nexus 4. If you want something that just works, get the iPhone 5.

More help

Need more help choosing between the iPhone 5 and the Nexus 4? Here's where you can have your questions answered!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • While spec comparisons are good, because it's always to the benefit to know what compares to what, angling the article as a "which should you buy" is IMO not really a good thing. Except in rare cases, people are going to either buy an Android or they are going to buy an iPhone and nothing you or Phil say will change their minds. The only people a "what should I buy" article will influence are those who are entering the space for the first time or those who for whatever reason are considering changing platforms, and in the case of the former, they're not likely to be here reading anything on Mobile Nations yet.
  • i agree unless you are willing to change platforms this article would be for new smartphone users.. still a good article..
  • Don't make me laugh, its still as biased and factually incorrect as Renes posts always are.
    Examples on the sheet are as follows: the lack of Glanoss on the N4; BSI missing on the N4; the fact the N4 also has the screen fused to the touch (as does the S3, and the S2 before that); the 1.5Ghz missing; the fact iPhone says custom on its CPU core; prices being on-contract for iPhone and off contract for N4.
    "At 1136x640 and 326ppi, it's still backlit LED, and still IPS, and technically the best, most advanced panel on the planet for now."
    To be fair the N4 should also include
    "At 1280×768 and 320 ppi, it's also backlit LED, and also IPS, and actually, technically, the best, most advanced panel on the planet for now." - As the only thing the i5 beats the screen on is brightness, N4 has blacker blacks and better contrast. - http://www.anandtech.com/print/6425
    What a joke.
  • Get over yourself, dipshit. It's a pro-Apple blog. What did you expect?
  • Accurate facts? I never said that I think X is any better than Y, they should just all be accurately represented. Also the graphic is a mobile nations graphic, not a iMore graphic.
  • yeah you faggot that's why people are biased fools and don't use the correct specifications of phones.
  • He also didn't point out that the Nexus 4 is HALF the phone, in graphical and browser performance, of the iPhone 5 Read the article. Look at how the iPhone decimates the Nexus 4, which is closer to a 4S in speed. It has worse battery life than the iPhone 5 (SERIOUSLY? I love my phone but the battery is one of the biggest issues, and the nexus performance is below the iPhone) And as for the black levels, for the brightness and contrast the iPhone has a 200 nit+ boost over the Nexus, versus the black levels, where the difference is .14 (and yes I realize that minor differences here are very different from the bigger numbers in brightness). As for the contrast ratio, it's as well a VERY small margin that the Nexus wins. In fact, unlike the speed tests which ARE substantial, these display tests, all of them, tend to need incredibly large differences to actually make a massive notable difference for people to see it. Like the 3GS which is discussed. Now THOSE numbers are a whole bag of crazy in differences. So why don't you take a step away from being a clearly partisan fandroid and actually think before you post. Especially when you are posting about things that are almost negligible, and completely ignore the substantial differences. Simply put, according this the Nexus is a prettier android version of the 4S in most of the performance tests.
  • Your an idiot. Half the iPhone 5 in graphics right? Go to gl bench ( apples benchmark if choice as well as the only cross platform benchmark between the two) the nexus 4 and all other devices with the s4 pro do better in EVERY test than the iPhone 5 and ipad 3.... Dumbass the only devices faster than it are the nexus 10 and ipad 4... And as for screen the iPhone 5 has the highest contrast ratio of any phone over 12% higher than the iPhone 5 as well as better viewing angles and outdoor visibility. And as for the CPU it's SIGNIFICANTLY faster than the iPhone 5. (21000 on geek envy vs 16000) lol. And for all the tests we're doing right now lets not forget that the nexus 4 and nexus 10 are on unfinished software. Lol they'll go from noticeably faster to significantly faster by the time the final version of 4.2 is released on Tuesday. The iPhone is another obsolete dead in the water piece of shit like the last one... Lol
  • I'm an idiot? Did you even do ANY research? http://www.anandtech.com/show/6324/the-iphone-5-performance-preview Tell me now. The s3 doesn't touch the performance of the 5. The iPhone 5 is very slightly different than the ipad 4, which is also the current top in performance. Honestly I don't know what you're on about. Unfinished software? That's an argument you're using. Funny. Anyway, just look at the benchmarks on the link. And let's stick to the devices currently available. I'm sure the next phone anyone releases could possibly top the iPhone 5, but the Nexus 4 clearly doesn't.
  • Nexus 4 is a HALF PHONE?
    i would never call a phone with 1.5 GHZ quadcore cpu and a 2G RAM (both of which happen to be more than that of iPhone 5) and 8MP camera a HALF phone!!! the fact that Apple fools its customer by just making few basic changes in every products and make them look like a huge fancy overhaul by a very well planned marketing doesn't make its phones any better than the others, yes aluminum body and hardware-software integration are admirable and LTE is a must have feature these days but lets face it Nexus 4 is a masterpiece!
    i always loved how smooth i could move around on iPhone and iPad and thought would never see any android device that match this feature till Nexus 4 came out! So goodbye iPhone! (i still believe iPad is the best though)
  • According to the cross platform Benchmarks, the Nexus 4 consistently performed significantly UNDER the iPhone by, in many cases, half the marks. Marks that DO make a difference when using the devices. And to note, the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 are almost completely on par as far as the numbers show, and in my experience I would agree. Both devices have virtually the same specs. But one last thing, as has been said before, specs are meaningless unlesss the experience matches the numbers. The specs on the nexus 4 are technically better, but lower numbers on the iPhone still have the phone performing better. I'm still waiting to hear about this supposed final OS launch that was supposed to have hit on Tuesday, this supposedly would have Android blasting pass ios. I haven't heard anything, has it launched?
  • Geekbench is pointless when real life proves that lower iphone/ipad numbers still equal faster devices. And you're sure betting the farm on Tuesday. Lets see. If the numbers blow away the ipad and iPhone, I'll gladly concede to Android. It'll be clear they are the more solid devices... But who really knows. Shouldn't there be people who have tested this supposed OS and has benchmarks numbers to show how it's going to blow away Apple devices?
  • Well if he did, and had numbers to back them up then yea that's fine... what's your point? If the display tests need massive notable difference for people to see it then why is it mentioned as "technically the best, most advanced panel on the planet for now" then? If any of my corrections were incorrect then feel free to elaborate on which ones and I'll gladly change them.
  • Wait, you're here yapping about numbers and it was YOUR link that prove what I was saying and what I linked to. So. Look at The article YOU originally posted. Oh, see my post with the benchmark results. As for the display, the fact that most of the numbers are better on the iPhone screen , except for ONE... Well, gee. Again, go look at the display mate tests. They look at a wide range of different factors, all which show as a win in the iPhone's favor. So yeah. It's the best, most advanced display out right now.
  • Erm, you need to read the article above, its a N4 not a S3
  • And as I said below, n4, s3... Doesn't matter.
  • Here's another. http://www.anandtech.com/show/6425/google-nexus-4-and-nexus-10-review/ Yeah. The s3 and the Nexus 4 just make the iPhone 5 look ancient and outdated. REALLY NOW. sheesh. Are there other magical benchmarks out there that will somehow negate all these? (And you call US sheep)
  • When did I say it was faster than a iphone5? or that it "just make the iPhone 5 look ancient and outdated", your just making random stuff up now. I'd quite happily take a phone that's faster than my current phone. Why would I pay almost double for something that you yourself say is a bit faster? That's all off topic, My beef is just with the lack of justification for "technically the best, most advanced panel on the planet for now" EDIT: Though seeing as you want to make this into some kind of speed comparison you should go check out Geekbench, http://browser.primatelabs.com/android-benchmarks http://browser.primatelabs.com/ios-benchmarks though TBH I'd take anything over 600.
  • I guess I forgot to reply to this. Regardless sill make it quick. The fact that the geekbench numbers on the nexus 4, S3 and Nexus 10 are higher than the ipad and iPhone, while actual real life benchmarks show real world experience to be substantially better on both the iPhone and iPad. So while there's no NFC, wireless charging (really? The exclusion of those are making the iPhone show it's age?) and now the iPhone is lame because it JUST got LTE, which was one of the biggest trends against apple, the "Our phones have had that for a year!" Argument seems a little silly now that one of the biggest supposed competitors to the iPhone launches without the same support that supposedly made the iPhone lame for not having. I admit there are flaws with apple. Yet the other side refuses to do the same. No one is perfect. But I CAN say that the current apple devices are, on a technical level, the most advanced phones on the market. Wireless charging and NFC do not innovation make. Wireless charging is one of the most overrated ideas in its current implementation. NFC is so far from being strongly adopted that its inclusion is nothing more than a trinket right now. So keep arguing. The numbers that matter and the experience I've had with my device versus the competitor says it all.
  • You really need to keep on-topic, I never mentioned NFC or LTE, or "Our phones have had that for a year!" , where are you getting this stuff from?
  • Hell I don't know. This is what happens when I comment on too many articles. I apololgize for apparently putting words in your mouth. As for the points I did make regarding the negatives comment made for the iPhone, it does still stand for many of the anti apple sentiments. It's almost the stock mentality that comes in. But no, it's clear you didn't say it. SOMEONE did, somewhere. Probably on the other article about the S3 sales.
  • @tomhoward........the only joke is between your legs. Get laid or something dude. You have way too much time on your hands, toolbag.
  • From someone who's normal comments are
    "Troll alert. Nice comment, jerk wad."
    "It is not a flaw for me, especially when viewing porn."
    "OK, fine.......you are a dork! There!"
    "Please get a freakin life, tool bag."
    "I'm putting a petition together to see who gets to beat your ass........takers?"
    It sounds like you spend way to much time trolling comments.
  • I am a rare one then xD ipad 3 , ipod touch 4, samsung galaxy s 5 wifi, hp touch pad (dual boot droid/webos) and my phone is a bionic with the lapdock high def dock and car dock. i love all the techie stuff. i can affirm easier to use and spot on is ios system. if you want to get into the op system all by yourself and or are bent on world domination ( haha domination over your device ) android is the way to go. which op system is better? thats in the eyes of the beholder. remember there is not one droid hardware , so its droid plus all of its maufactures (users) vs apple/apple. cant say droid is better just outright, cause jelly bean or ice cream on a moto droid one would be crap. even current models who is to say you like samsung or htc or motorola's ui as they are all different. be glad we have choices and happy computing!
  • Or there are people like myself that like both and are not tied down to one operating system or one device. I own a Android tablet and phone and a iOS tablet and phone and love them all. My biggest problem with Android after four and a half years it still is slow and glitchy as hell. One of these days Google and their partners will fix this. But as far as this phone goes ill pass because of no LTE. And where are the iPhone bashers that trashed the 4s for not having LTE? I mean come on google no LTE really!!!!
  • Ok here comes the 'if' factor. If the Nexus 4 had been made by HTC and had LTE then I would have seriously considered it. Otherwise I'll stick to my iPhone 5 which finally has LTE!
  • Nexus for sure is a great phone (hardware wise), no doubt about that. Yes you can do a lot of customization with Android, but it doesn't matter if the UI sucks.
  • Ever since 4.0 Android stepped it up immensely. 4.1 is definitely an iOS competitor head to head.
    4.2 makes it even better. Android keeps getting more fresh, fun, and simply good looking every year. iOS looks the same since the very first iphone! I have the iphone 5 and owned the HTC ONE X. Android is incredible and this is the phone to bring out the software in a great high build quality hardware.
  • This is why I chose iOS, I don't want a fancy fun OS that's unpredictable with swiping options from here to all eternity. I want a stable, functional OS that does exactly what I need it to, with no compromises and no funny business. iOS may be basic, but it's rock solid and does absolutely everything I need it to in the way that I need it to. I watched Phil's video and I saw him trying to do these fancy two finger pull downs that worked maybe half the time. Every time I swipe in any way, both for the notification center and the multitasking gestures, they work. Perfectly. Is it as feature filled as Android? God no. Is it as customizable? Not remotely close. Does it work? Does Apple provide one of the most stable, secure and rock solid operating systems out there? Oh, hell yeah. It may be boring, but it works every single damn time.
  • So your point is your retarded and easily confused???
  • you should choose the one that suits you best
  • Im getting the NEXUS baby. "The most advanced mobile OS" to me
  • "The story of iPhone and Android is one of those classics that just seems to keep getting remade. It's one of precision vs. power, elegance vs. enormity, usability vs. customizability, and Apple's ecosystem vs. Google's ecosystem." I couldn't have said it better myself!
  • Had an LG phone once. Will never have one again. Ditto Motorola.
  • "It's also built...like nothing else on the planet.". Take a look at the Nokia Lumina 920 that just came out. It is a solid, well built device. Anyway, all these articles and reviews are just copy/paste from other articles and reviews that I've already read on this site. I've seen that video test countless times in other posts. Go take some new video at least!
  • Even if that we're true all sites do that. Some readers may just come here for there tech info and some may go to Engadget, Cnet, BGR etc etc. Maybe you never noticed but news sites do the same thing. Just saying
  • Yeah, I guess you're right. I didn't think of the user that is maybe hitting the site for the first time to read a review. Forget what I said then, except maybe the part about doing a new video test :)
  • My find my friends list is growing every month, get an iPhone.
  • I initiated two new recruits this week, get an iPhone 5.
  • Mr.Rene i'm confused which one should i buy Android or iphone 5... right now i'm using iphone 4s.. pls suggest me.
  • I initiated two new recruits this week, get an iPhone 5. http://top10sms.info
  • Why is that idiot driving while operating his phone??
  • You get what you review, and I really like all that I've been seeing with the Nexus 5 http://versus.com/en/google-nexus-5-vs-samsung-galaxy-s4-google, as I was going to get the Samsung Galaxy S4 I decided to look at the specs on various sites and it seems like the Nexus wins! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8STgCviLe0, and Samsung is great and all but the Nexus just had certain things I was looking forward to seeing a new smart phone have like focus stability and a variety of new apps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDamQh-PdIo Glad I took the time, now I'm definitely going to buy it.